Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Homemade vs. Store Bought

When it comes right down to it, purely homemade tends to taste so much better than premade, packaged and store bought.  The majority of products are geared towards those of us who are alone.  Canned meals to plop into a saucepan and heat up on a stove top.  Frozen boxed meals that pop into a microwave for 5 minutes, ding, and it is ready to eat.  Of course there are the products pushed upon those wishing to lose weight, and, thereby, become healthier.  Atkins, Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine are the big three in this regard.  Unfortunately though, and this is my personal opinion on many products tried, the taste, smell and texture are quite questionable.  The ingredient list is usually long, but instead of food edibles, it is chemicals.

Now do I use products geared towards convenience?  Of course!  Whether it is time constraints, a spur of the moment recipe idea, or simply clueless as to what to make; these products help with these issues.  Take, for example, Campbell’s Soups, the creamed varieties especially, can be easily used to blend ingredients together into a hearty, tasty, and fulfilling dish.

Some time ago, an ad link popped up on Facebook and it referred to a recipe called "Angel Chicken".  Basically it was a crock pot recipe where Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup, a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, cream cheese and white wine cooked for about 4-5 hours and was then served over angel hair pasta.  Simple recipe and I was willing to give it a try; that is until I went grocery shopping.  Pricing out a 10.5 ounce can of the soup, at various stores, ranged from $1.50 to $2.19, and I became, well, indignant about it.

I went home, got online and looked up the ingredient list for the soup; salt and sugar were the first two ingredients and the listing of preservatives and chemical additives was longer than the natural ingredients.  Breaking down the basic ingredients, the beef broth already has salt in it; then came tomato sauce, white wine, a roux of butter and flour, water and mushrooms.  Certainly no need for sugar, or additional salt.

Whenever I see mushrooms on sale, I will buy a couple of boxes and dehydrate them for future usage, so I had those on hand; as well as the other ingredients.  The task to make a complete meal now turned into a two-fold project; making the soup, then making the chicken recipe.  The idea of deconstructing the processed soup, and then recreating from scratch was a pretty exciting concept.

As the cooking process of the soup commenced, the smell in the kitchen was heavenly; if the entire recipe tasted as good as it smelled, this would be one heck of an accomplishment.  Now unknowingly, I had run out of angel hair pasta, so served the chicken, mushrooms and sauce over linguine was amazing; simply amazing!  More work than opening a little can of soup? Oh yes, but so, so worth all the effort.

So sorry Campbell's, but mine is better.

 Golden Mushroom Chicken


8 Tbsp. butter

8 Tbsp. flour

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened

1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth plus ½ can water

¼ cup white wine

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. each crushed, dried basil, thyme and marjoram

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat

1 lb. sliced white mushrooms

1 and ½ lbs. angel hair pasta (linguine can be substituted)


In a large saucepan, medium-high heat, melt butter and whisk in flour; add cream cheese and stir until cream cheese begins to combine with the roux. Add beef broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, garlic powder, herbs and black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; let simmer for 5 minutes.

Set 6-quart crock pot on low; place in chicken breasts, mushrooms on top of chicken; pour the sauce over all. Cover and let cook for 5-6 hours; until chicken is moist and tender.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; place a chicken breast on top a serving of pasta and spoon sauce over all.

Makes 8 servings.

With holiday meals being planned out, think about taking some time to figure out how to avoid using processed products.  Yes, it will be a little more work, but the smiles on family and guests faces will be quite worth it all.  Then again, maybe you have wanted to develop your cooking skills, or even begin learning how; so start from scratch!

Mary Cokenour